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Old May 16th 2011, 11:45 PM   #1
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Questions on compact nuclear weapons (for legitimate historical research)

Firstly, no one need to be worried about the subject matter being discussed here; anyone with access to fissile material doubtless has access to far more in-depth discussion than would be seen in this thread. My training as a researcher is in the humanities, specifically history, not physics. However I do prefer to embrace the facts when writing of the social history of technology. Thus any open-source material that may be discussed herein may be of use.

My question relates to compact nuclear weapons. As I understand the two principal means of assembling a super-critical mass of fissile material are ‘gun assembly’ and ‘implosion assembly.’ It is also my understanding that the former requires quite a large, and therefore bulky, amount of very highly enriched uranium.

I also understand that the implosion method generally requires a large quantity of explosives to compress a sphere of fissile material into a supercritical state (with an initiator present at the centre). In this second half of this article: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/DoSuitcaseNukesExist.html Carey Sublette appears to be discussing a subtype of this assembly method, involving a larger mass of fissile material that due to size constraints of the device (i.e. no bulky explosive lenses, pusher/tamper etc) is not so much ‘imploded’ but rather brought into a supercritical state without a great increase in density.

Is what is happening here in this ‘two point linear implosion assembly’ that a football-shaped mass of fissile material is essentially brought into a supercritical state by altering its shape to make it spherical? If it were already critical, or close to it, would it not be releasing a dangerous amount of radioactivity during manufacture? Is it the case that when the explosives are detonated at each end, the converging shockwaves also trigger an ‘initiator’, thus helping bring k>1?

Thanks for your time and input
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Old May 17th 2011, 03:38 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Pink Ling View Post
Firstly, no one need to be worried about the subject matter being discussed here; anyone with access to fissile material doubtless has access to far more in-depth discussion than would be seen in this thread. My training as a researcher is in the humanities, specifically history, not physics. However I do prefer to embrace the facts when writing of the social history of technology. Thus any open-source material that may be discussed herein may be of use.

My question relates to compact nuclear weapons. As I understand the two principal means of assembling a super-critical mass of fissile material are ‘gun assembly’ and ‘implosion assembly.’ It is also my understanding that the former requires quite a large, and therefore bulky, amount of very highly enriched uranium.

I also understand that the implosion method generally requires a large quantity of explosives to compress a sphere of fissile material into a supercritical state (with an initiator present at the centre). In this second half of this article: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/DoSuitcaseNukesExist.html Carey Sublette appears to be discussing a subtype of this assembly method, involving a larger mass of fissile material that due to size constraints of the device (i.e. no bulky explosive lenses, pusher/tamper etc) is not so much ‘imploded’ but rather brought into a supercritical state without a great increase in density.

Is what is happening here in this ‘two point linear implosion assembly’ that a football-shaped mass of fissile material is essentially brought into a supercritical state by altering its shape to make it spherical? If it were already critical, or close to it, would it not be releasing a dangerous amount of radioactivity during manufacture? Is it the case that when the explosives are detonated at each end, the converging shockwaves also trigger an ‘initiator’, thus helping bring k>1?

Thanks for your time and input
I believe you when you say that you are only looking for general information, but due to the current state of world affairs I think you can understand that I am a bit hesitant to allow such a topic in a public forum. I am going to continue this (limited) discussion via Personal Messaging on this system. I will be able to respond in a few days.

Thread closed.

-Dan
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Old May 18th 2011, 06:14 AM   #3
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I have had a chat with the site Administrators and they have decided that any conversation on this topic is not in the best interests of the site. No further discussion on this topic will be allowed.

-Dan
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